Finding Mentorship in All Its Forms

Karrakchou_many forms of mentorship June 28, 2023 By: Sara Karrakchou

Mentorship is a powerful component of many successful association careers—and it can take many forms. Learn how to uncover the type of mentorship that would benefit you professionally.

After years working in the private sector, I landed a great position at an association. While I remained in a similar job function to previous roles, I soon found my hard sales mindset required a shift.

No longer was my focus directly on supporting a sales unit to convert leads to customers. Instead, my new team’s responsibility spanned communicating to and on behalf of diverse stakeholders about a variety of issues. There were discussions of corporate governance, policy, committees, and grassroots campaigns. With this learning curve to tackle, I was encouraged by friends and colleagues to find a mentor.

While it can be hard to admit when we don’t know something, I had previously pursued mentorship in an array of forms throughout my formative years. In college, I joined organizations such as a business fraternity for support toward professional pursuits and gained excellent advice from my older peers. When first starting my career, I leaned into relationships with friends and supervisors who offered valuable guidance.

Today, I am proud to have integrated this mindset of continuously seeking mentorship into my professional life.

There are countless benefits to mentorship, both to the individual who is being mentored and the bestower of advice. Below are some of the types that I have sought or have helped those around me.

Internal vs. External to Organization

A more straightforward type of mentorship, that is typically accessible daily, comes in the form of your work team. Don’t shy away from asking for their help, especially if you are fortunate to have a supportive supervisor and peers. When I was onboarding into the new position, my team was integral to my successfully learning the ropes. Further, I’ve been empowered and guided to learn new soft and hard skillsets.

However, there can be limitations to restricting mentorship to those directly around you. Individuals outside of your organization often bring a fresh perspective that can aid in your growth in different ways. I’ve greatly benefited from participating in ASAE’s Young Professionals mentor program, which matched me with a mentor not only in a different organization but also in a different state and job role, whose guidance has helped me tremendously.

Within Industry vs. Outside

As mentioned above, there is exceptional value in seeking mentors who work outside of your industry or job function. These individuals can shed light on new ways of thinking, processes, and tools that can be applied cross-functionally and may not be incorporated broadly into your field.

Of course, when you are looking to advance within your professional industry, having a mentor in the same or a similar field often provides critical guidance on areas such as certifications, training, and skills needed. They also make you aware of essential events and conferences and can introduce you to vital connections.

More vs. Less Career Experience

While we may default to thinking of mentorship as mostly a one-sided relationship—where the mentor gives guidance to the mentee—my own mentors continuously remind me of the ways that our conversations benefit them. Many individuals have sought out reverse mentorship, or a partnership where more junior employees advise executive or more senior-level team members. This can be especially useful in learning about newer technologies and schools of thought that may have been recently updated in academic programs.

The more customary dynamic of learning from those with more experience is a method that has been leveraged for decades. Younger or more junior professionals can learn from the mistakes and successes of more experienced colleagues for their own professional development. Whether navigating a new industry, career advancement, or tricky work relationships, it’s helpful to gain perspectives from those who have “been there, done that.”

Throughout these categories, an important point to keep in mind is to seek out guidance from individuals who have different backgrounds and experiences to your own. Diversity of thought is extremely beneficial in molding your perspectives and knowledge for future endeavors.

Especially in a digital age that can empower relationships from any distance, take advantage of the wisdom of others. The power of community and shared experiences has proven the test of time and provided value across a variety of facets of civilization, including the professional development of many. This is why association professionals should seek out mentorship to accomplish personal and organizational goals—and then pay it forward.

Sara Karrakchou

Sara Karrakchou is digital communications specialist at the Healthcare Distribution Alliance.